Let’s Pray Like We’ve Never Prayed Before…(With help from Anne Graham Lotz)

Friends! Anyone besides me ready for the political hoopla to cease and desist? Who knows where we’ll be come November 9th, post-election, but the good news is the commercials will be off the air. Better yet, as our daughter-in-love, Diana, reminded us the other night, God will still be on the throne.

No worries, I refuse to talk politics. Even better news: There is one wonderful, blissful way to stay distracted from all of it: prayer. Fervent prayer at that.

I recently was blessed to read Anne Graham Lotz’ newest book: The Daniel Prayer—Prayer that Moves Heaven and Changes Nations. It’s become my favorite manual on prayer.


A forever fan of the Graham family, Anne in particular holds a special place in my heart. Years ago when we read The Magnificent Obsession—Embracing the God-Filled Life by her for Book Club, she agreed to Skype with us from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Unfortunately a few days prior to that she learned her husband, Danny, had been scheduled for a procedure on his heart the very day we were to Skype.

He’s since gone to be with the Lord, God bless him and their family. At the time, however, he wasn’t in good health and this procedure was needed as soon as possible. Anne’s hands were tied. We, of course, understood.

Anne went above and beyond to record a video message for us, personally addressing our Book Club gals, that we got to show that evening. The fact she took the time to do that for us in the midst of all she was juggling still tugs at my heart.

Anne begins The Daniel Prayer by discussing the dire condition of our world. She says, “There are three reasons I believe God’s patience may be running out. One: We have willingly intentionally, deliberately taken the lives of almost 60 million children. Most of these abortions were not done for medical reasons, but for the convenience of the mother as a means of birth control.”

“Two: Our defiance of God’s institution of marriage.”

“Three: Our abandonment of the nation of Israel.”

Anne adds, “…it is especially concerning to see the United States of America, a nation founded on faith in God and dedicated to His glory by our first President and the Continental Congress, defy Him, seek to remove Him from public life, and rebel against His ways.”

Her solution? (Which is available to us all…) PRAYER. Prayer straight from Daniel in the Bible. (See Daniel 9:1-23) Daniel’s prayer gives us a beautiful model which Anne walks us through, giving us excellent examples we can use anywhere at any time.

Woman with bible

The book’s divided into four parts: Preparing for Prayer, Pleading in Prayer, Prevailing in Prayer and Patterns for Prayer. It’s the Patterns for Prayer that are my absolute favorite. They include prayer that’s “centered, compelled, confident, contrite, and clear,” plus a prayer for battle.

She especially addresses (and warns us about) spiritual warfare. Throughout the book she gives beautiful Scripture to help us with our prayers.

She dots humor throughout each chapter which is a welcomed relief from the serious subject matter. I got tickled at her confession about having trouble waking earlier each morning to pray.

She finally marched out and bought an obnoxious alarm clock which so severely startled her and Danny the next morning, they nearly each had a heart attack! It was that same clock, tho’, that helped her conquer what she called her “blanket victory.” Hey, whatever it takes, right?

She said, “Prayer helps us anchor our faith in God. It’s like setting our spiritual compass so that regardless of the twists and turns during the day, the needle of our focused faith always turns to God.”

Travel geography navigation concept background - vintage retro e

While the humor is fun, Anne’s pressing questions are not! (Oh, but they’re good medicine!!!) For example, she says, “When Daniel bowed his knees to God, it was an outward gesture that revealed his inner attitude of humility, reverence, submission, and allegiance to the One so much greater than himself or any earthly king or world ruler.”

Then she poses, “When was the last time you prayed on your knees? Try it. The difference your outward position makes in your inner attitude as you pray may surprise you.”

Anne believes the Daniel Prayer is “a 911 call for urgent help. The Daniel Prayer is storming the gates of Heaven with what Eugene Peterson calls ‘reversed thunder’—praying God’s Word back to Him…” (The prayers in the back of the book walk you straight thru’ Scripture.)

She shows us five characteristics of the Daniel Prayer we can all strive for in our prayers. Check these out:


Anne’s writing is so filled with passion, you’ll be beyond blessed by reading this. I’ve literally highlighted and dog-eared her book to death.

I’m praying she’ll make a Bible study from it, however, your small group could easily go chapter by chapter and turn it into one. It’s a resource you’ll return to over and over.

To close, let’s receive Anne’s encouragement from chapter 7:


This very week our Tuesday Bible study group was discussing the political frenzy surrounding us.  We agreed to pray more and worry less. Thankfully at the same time Max Lucado wrote a piece about his prediction for November 9th.

Like only Max can do, his words bring further comfort:  “Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace.  When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.” (Don’t miss his article from 10/13/16 in the Opinion section of Fox News.)


‘Til next time!

P.S. Fun fact: I first learned about Anne Graham Lotz’ book thanks to an entertaining and educational interview done by Eric Metaxas with Anne on his show this past May.  It aired on 5/9/16. You can listen to the interview by going to Eric’s website: www.metaxastalk.com


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You’re Invited to Meet and Hear from TWO Authors, Monday October 24th: Liz Curtis Higgs and Bill Higgs! Men and Women are welcome!

Friends!  Mark your calendar now to dash over to Middletown United Methodist Church next Monday night, October 24th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.  Men and women are welcome!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 www.middletownumc.org

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

The ladies of Branches Book Club will be hosting Retro Night.  They’re playing some of the oldies from the 60’s from WPER in Liz’ novel, Mixed Signals, as well as from Bill’s book, Eden Hill, which is set in the 60’s, all the while whippin’ up root beer floats and coke floats!  The floats will be made in mugs you get to take home.  Hey, motivation is everywhere. (Not to mention, there’ll be fabulous door prizes as well!)

Icing on the cake is we’ll be blessed to have TWO visiting authors!  Liz Curtis Higgs and her husband Bill, will be talking about their books, entertaining questions, and signing their books.  We’ll be discussing two novels:  Mixed Signals by Liz and Eden Hill by Bill.


Mixed Signals

Eden Hill


You can catch my thumbs’ up review of Bill’s book Eden Hill, here:

Step Back into a Delightful Time with Bill Higg’s Debut Novel, Eden Hill

We’ll get to hear from Bill about his writing process, his characters, etc.  This is his debut novel which is a HUGE accomplishment.  Obviously, Liz is very proud of her hubbie!  She’ll be talking about Mixed Signals and hopefully a little about her newest release, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart.  They will share their writing experiences together, interview style, much to our delight.


Liz’ novel, Mixed Signals, was published in 1999.  This was her very first contemporary fiction she wrote, followed by Bookends (2000), followed by Fine Print in Three Weddings and a Giggle (2001), and finally Mercy Like Sunlight in Unveiling Magdalene (2001).

Liz then turned to Scottish historical fiction with Thorn in my Heart (2003). She’ll be the first to tell you, she’s never looked back!

I read Mixed Signals when it released, but needed to revisit it to jog my memory. (I can’t remember milk at the grocery store, much less what I read seventeen years ago!) I found it just as captivating as before. Liz keeps you on your toes.

You’ll instantly fall in love with her characters.  How Liz weaves God’s grace and forgiveness into the story line is breathtaking. The banter between potential lovebirds will make you laugh out loud.

The setting is positively charming. From Liz’ descriptive writing, you feel as if you’re right there in Abingdon with Belle, David, Patrick, and Norah. Liz includes not one, but two love stories, plus a side of sweet friendship. The friendship blooms between Belle and Norah.

Liz writes, “Morning after morning, in the cozy confines of the shop, their friendship had begun quilting itself together with tiny, intricate stitches…Their friendship fell somewhere between sisters and friends, with a dash of mother-daughter dynamics thrown in for good measure.”

Patchwork quilt. Part of patchwork quilt as background. Handmade.

Right about the time you think all problems are solved, and all relationships are tied up in a pretty little package, Liz throws you a curve ball.  One cup of coffee consumed too many, coupled with this curve ball, caused my heart to nearly beat out of my chest.

I kept thinking, “Surely she’s not going to harm these characters??? Surely she won’t end this in disaster???”  If you’re not glued to the book from the beginning, you’ll be tethered to it in the end.  Mercy.

Even if you haven’t had time to read these two novels by the Higgs’, come meet them and spend some time with them.  You’ll be beyond blessed. You can always read their books afterwards.  When you do, you’ll be able to hear Liz and Bill’s voices reading to you, a huge perk from coming to Book Club.

As if the timing couldn’t be more perfect, this week, on October 18th, a lovely, new, devotional-style book by Liz releases called 31 Verses to Write on Your HeartThis book will be available not only in bookstores, but the Higgs’ will also be bringing it to Book Club.  (Start your Christmas shopping!)


I was blessed to read an early copy. As I finished each chapter, I’d text Liz and say, “Ok, now this chapter is my favorite.” Friends, they’re all wonderful.

Some verses you’ll immediately recognize while some may be less known.  As only Liz can do, she unpacks them, word by word, or phrase-by-phrase, making them come alive, applying them to our daily lives.

An added challenge comes with this beautiful book:  We, the readers, are invited to memorize these Scriptures. Each of the thirty-one chapters offers a different tip for how to do exactly that.

Scripture memory continues to haunt me on a regular basis whether from an author, or a book, or a Bible study.  Here we go again…

When I was in Nashville in August, I showed 31 Verses to my friend, Meredith.  She, too, said she always wants to attempt memorizing the Word, but never determines to do it.  With that, she blind-sided me:  “Let’s do this together!”  Well, what does one do with that?

I said, “Okay!”  Hey, and with Liz as your coach?  We all should say, “Yes!  We’re in!”

Friends, here’s your challenge! Please comment and let me know if you’re in! You’ll be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of 31 Verses!!!

Karen Ehman calls this, “Your new spiritual strategy for deepening your daily walk with God.”

Patsy Clairmont says, “Writing God’s Word on our hearts is insurance. It’s truth we can call on 24/7 in times of fear, insecurity, or intimidation.”

Are you in?  Pray about this! While this book is great for your own individual use, consider using it with your Bible study group or Small Group.  Our Tuesday group, better known as Blessings on Burlington, generally breaks during the holidays, thus giving us several weeks off.  We’re hoping to use this book to keep our faces in the Word.  It’s the perfect tool.

One of many favorite examples comes from Chapter 14:  Comfort Food.  It focuses on Isaiah 41:10.


Liz says this verse is, “Simple, straightforward nutrition that fills our hearts with everything we hunger for…”  No panic, no worry, no anxiety:  “there is nothing to fear” (AMPC).

She encourages us by reminding us, “He is with you, beloved. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, He’s on your side and by your side. What a balm to our anxious hearts to know we are never alone.”

Each chapter blesses the reader with new insights and this one (chapter 14) is no exception:  “Every time we see some variation of ‘I am your God’ in Scripture, that’s our cue to embrace the truth and respond in kind, ‘I am Your child.’

Even if your earthly parents dropped the ball, you can be very sure God did not, cannot, and will not. He is the father you can trust completely.” 

See what a blessing this is?  Thank you, Lizzie!

We all hope to see you next Monday night, October 24th, at Book Club at Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m.!

Bring your friends and don’t forget, men and women are welcome.

 ‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews, Scripture

“Appointments with Heaven” Comforts and Reassures Readers Beautifully

On the last day of our escape to Naples, Florida,  John and I decided a breakfast al fresco on Fifth Avenue would be the perfect finale. Armed with a stack of books, off we went.

The aroma of dark, rich coffee lured us in. Grabbing a table by the street, we began to take in our surroundings. One couple with an older pug and a younger maltese sat next to us which thrilled us immensely. We were terribly homesick for our wild child, a/k/a Gracie, our very wired wire-haired fox terrier.

Dog fix satisfied, we inhaled our buttery rich croissants stuffed with eggs, cheese, and bacon (Hey, calories don’t count when one is on vacation, right?). John dashed back inside to refill our coffees. Now we were settled in to sit and read under the palm trees.

One of the many books I packed surprised me. It had two things going for it before I ever opened it up: 1 – It’s a gift from my sweet friend Meredith along with her thumbs’ up recommendation, and 2 – Heaven is the subject manner. Few things fascinate me more.

What I wasn’t ready for was how glued to the pages I’d become, not wanting to put the book down. The book? Appointments with Heaven—The true story of a country doctor’s healing encounters with the hereafter by Dr. Reggie Anderson with Jennifer Schuchmann.


Reggie’s a family physician. He and his wife, Karen have three daughters who are married and one son who’s in nursing school. Oh boy, you must read how Reggie and Karen began dating and got married! Huge proof our Lord has a gigantic sense of humor.

One of many cool connections in the book is Reggie and Karen’s daughter, Julia, is married to Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s son, Caleb.

Steven and Mary Beth wrote the powerful Foreword to Reggie’s book. The friendships forged between these two families is so clearly woven by God, they’ll take your breath away. (You can watch a video of an interview with the Chapmans talking about Reggie and his book. Go to: www.appointmentswithheaven.com )

Near the end of the book, Reggie shares the tragic story of the Chapman’s daughter Maria’s death. Reggie relates their experience with bittersweet details, making you feel as if you’re in their home with them. The timing of everything is another only-God orchestration.

Reggie opens and closes the book with him treating his Father as a patient. Be sure you’re equipped with Kleenex. You’ll need them more than once. Reggie’s journey in his faith and experiences helps him cope with his Father’s death. The hope of heaven is never more real.

Reggie also tells beautiful stories from his childhood, his coming to faith, and the tragedy that caused him to walk away from his faith. The lengths to which the Lord goes to rescue him, bringing him back to faith, are beyond amazing.

His faith is challenged more than once, however, and he candidly shares his doubts. Over and over again, the Lord proves Himself trustworthy despite the temptation to ask, “Why?” It’s a gift for the reader to learn the answer to this question.

How Reggie winds up in med school is another divine deal. Any of you docs out there will appreciate the details of Reggie’s cases. Many are humorous while the more serious are covered in prayer.

Dreams are an added detail both from Reggie and his patients. They bring everyone, us readers included, a swath of comfort.

The power of prayer plays a big role in Reggie’s life personally and professionally. His mother prayed faithfully for him during his prodigal years. Many answers to prayer included in the book further encourage us to press on.


The first time Reggie is alone with someone who dies, something strange happens. We readers get to read about Reggie’s experiences with several patients . Each “appointment” brings with it more comfort and reassurance to us for our own peace of mind, plus for those of our loved ones who have gone on to Heaven.

Reggie’s senses become heightened. He keeps mentioning smelling citrus and lilac. When the soul leaves a body, He feels a warm sensation. He sees a soft glow always above and to the right of the patient. He feels a sense of peace as well as God’s presence. You must read each of these, because each one becomes more fascinating.

When one of his first patients, Irene, died, he felt the same warmth pass by him. He said, “I knew it was her soul carried on a fresh breeze slipping to the other side into the warmth of God’s presence.”


Not all of Reggie’s patients are believers however. After one patient died, Reggie recognized “evil had entered the room.” He said, “Everything about the room that day was the antithesis of heaven—no warmth, no breezes. Just a stagnant coldness.”

This frightening experience made Reggie more thankful he knows where he’s going. He realized, “It also made me more intentional about making sure others knew where they were going too.”

Finally, Reggie offers us readers a tip. He says some of his “greatest insights into heaven come from a resource that is just as available to you as it is to me: Scripture.”

Christian cross on bible

You can bet I’ll be sharing this quote with my Bible study buddies. The benefits from reading God’s Word are innumerable.

Reggie suggests we read Scripture “attentively, listening for what God’s Spirit is saying to you and asking Him to make you mindful of the many ways he is at work in the lives around you. Then you will hear and see and know the reality of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, both here on earth and in our forever home—heaven.”

He says the “one passage that perhaps best reflects God’s grace in my own life is:


Grab this book to add to your queue. You’ll more than likely want to give it to your friends too!

Blessings to the Andersons. Thank you, Reggie, for having the courage to share your story. It’s the boost we readers need to endure life here on earth, expectantly awaiting Heaven.

‘Til next time!

P.S. If you live anywhere near Louisville, be sure to head to Lifeway on Hurstbourne Lane next Tuesday, October 18th. Liz Curtis Higgs will be signing her newest book, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I’ll be writing about it next week. It, too, would make a great gift in addition to enhancing your own library. You can also use it for Scripture memory.  We’ll get into that challenge next week!

Also for your calendar: DOUBLE BONUS:  Liz and Bill Higgs will be joining us at Book Club, Monday, October 24th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church.  Guys and Gals are welcome.  Bring your friends!

We’ll be discussing Liz’ novel, Mixed Signals,  plus Bill’s novel, Eden Hill, and Liz’ newest book,, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart will just have released, so it’ll be available as well.  Crazy fun in the forecast from the Higgs’ household. More on that next week too.



Eden Hill

Mixed Signals

31 Verses to Write on your Heart


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

When Was the Last Time You Witnessed a Miracle? Want to See FIFTY-SEVEN Miracles? Pull Up a Chair…

Out on an early morning walk with our overly energetic dog, Hubster and I came to a screeching halt. We held up our arms. They were covered in goose bumps.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. The cause? I’d just shared one of fifty-seven miracles from a book my friend Debbie Zinser had recently dropped off.

Miracle in the Mountains—Experiencing the Transforming Power of Faith in the Heart of Appalachia by Lonnie and Belinda Riley with Joyce Sweeney Martin will make you fall out of your chair about every other page.


You’d better have someone nearby to share the stories with, or a phone to call someone because you’ll never be able to keep these to yourself! They’re unbelievable and unexplainable except to say God is the only answer needed. The details and lengths to which He goes almost become comical.

A huge fan of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby and Claude V. King, I was stunned to see Claude is who wrote the Foreword to the Riley’s book.


God clearly orchestrated Claude and Lonnie’s meeting, ultimately landing Lonnie in a video when they revised the Experiencing God course to capture testimonies. Claude and video crew spent some time in Lynch, Kentucky with Lonnie and Belinda.

Years prior to that meeting, the Rileys attended a conference where Henry Blackaby was the speaker. God managed to connect the three of them. A pastor friend of theirs was supposed to take Mr. Blackaby back to the hotel. Something came up so he asked the Rileys to take him.

They got to spend forty-five minutes with Henry Blackaby. Can you imagine? It was Henry Blackaby (and the Lord) who turned their lives upside down.

In a nutshell, Henry told them they were doing everything wrong. He simply said, “You’re focus is on yourself, not God.”

One of my favorite traits about Lonnie and Belinda is their frank honesty. They confess much of their earlier success in the ministry was human driven, performance-based, make-it-happen, not God-driven living-by-faith. They lived in Ohio and later in Mississippi. I believe Henry Blackaby’s words opened their eyes and hearts.

In the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, lies a city called Lynch, Kentucky. It’s one of the tri-state cities, the other two being Benham and Cumberland.

“Just so happens” (which translates into “As God would orchestrate”) Belinda grew up in Lynch. When her mother died, Lonnie and Belinda returned for the funeral.


They found the town “horrible and depressing and they were always glad to get out of there.” Yet every time they returned, people kept asking them why they didn’t stay.   A year after Belinda’s mother died, they still hadn’t been able to sell her mother’s house, and a potential renter fell through.

They began to see the town differently. They saw hurting people. These were their people.

This time on the ten-hour drive back to Mississippi, both Lonnie and Belinda felt the call to return to Lynch. They up and sold their dream home, expensive cars, giving up an almost six-figure salary, to live in a four-room duplex. They said, “That experience with God was so awesome it almost took our breath away.”

This Scripture became their mantra:


Lean in, now, and I’ll share just one of these many miracles with you. My prayer is you’ll order this book ASAP and my promise is your faith will grow like the Grinch’s heart did at Christmas. (www.meridzo.com ) You may call the Meridzo Center at: (606)848-2766.

Soon after Lonnie and Belinda arrived in Lynch, they waited for God to tell them what to do next. Prayer during the waiting became their perpetual daily activity. Waiting didn’t translate into sitting still, however, so Lonnie got to work in the community.

On their street alone, many homes were boarded up, bushes and grass long neglected. Lonnie drove to a nearby store and bought some hedge trimmers for $24.99.

As he moved from house to house, trimming hedges, a young man stopped him. He said, “Somebody told me you’re a preacher, and I really need help. I need seventy-five dollars. My kids are hungry, my car’s torn up, and I can’t get to work.”

Lonnie told the young man he didn’t have any extra money at the time, but if God gave him the seventy-five dollars, he’d call him and give it to him.

Two days later a woman with Ohio license plates pulled up. She told Belinda and Lonnie she’d come to pay her bill. They didn’t know her nor have a clue as to what she was talking about.

She told them she owned the house up the street and had been wanting to pay someone to trim her hedges. She whipped out a one hundred dollar bill. She said, “If you don’t pick it up, it’s just going to lay there.” And with that, she was gone.

Visions of a colossal steak dinner danced in Lonnie’s head. But God reminded him, “Lonnie, you remember yesterday you told that boy that if I gave you seventy-five dollars, you’d give it to him. I just gave you more than seventy-five dollars.”

Quickly Lonnie called the young man, telling him God had just given him the money he needed. Lonnie reminded the young man to remember how good God had been to help him gain the money to pay for a warm meal to feed his family and be able to drive his car.

Before Lonnie could deliver the money, God seemed to say, “Now Lonnie, I just want you to know that not only did I give that boy the $75, but also I paid you back the $24.99 for your hedge clippers all in one shot.“ (This was the story that caused John and me to stop on our walk.)

Friends, this is only one of many, many  miracles with even more remarkable details, and answered prayers.  What began with a handful of volunteers grew to dozens, then thousands in just a few years, including places to house them that came out of nowhere. “Only God.” remains their only answer.

Twenty ministries have also blossomed. A crazy-wild range of gifts began arriving from all over the United States. They include horses, buildings, roof shingles, and theater seats just to name a few.  These gifts miraculously matched needs which birthed these ministries.  The orchestration of these gifts is what will make you laugh out loud.  God is totally in the details!

Clear-cut step-by-step processes of the faith-life are also outlined in the book. We readers can benefit from witnessing the Riley’s and the townspeople’s transformations, miracle after miracle.

Lonnie said, “We would soon learn a key principle in living a life of faith is:

Not about strategy but about serving

Not about sacrifice but about surrender

Not about trying but about trusting.”

Another favorite lesson the folks of Lynch learned was, “Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a step into the light.” Again, the power of their stories is undeniable…


One more of many Scriptures aiding the Rileys in learning what God wanted them to do is:

Matthew 7:7 where Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you, Seek, and you will find, Knock and it will be opened to you.”


Don’t miss Chapter Seven where Lonnie and Belinda spell out this three-part process (Ask, Seek, Knock) citing example after example.   If ever there was an answer-to-multiple-prayer book, this is it.

You’ll be delighted to learn Lonnie’s working on another book. Many more answered prayers and blessings have occurred since Miracle in the Mountains first came out.

Not only is this book a huge faith boost for believers, I believe it would bless seekers or any of your friends struggling with doubt.

Please keep the people and ministries of Lynch in your prayers.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

When You Miss Your Mom and Dad…

What seemed like a normal stop in the laundry room last week turned out to be a devastating downpour.  This is the challenge in losing a loved one.  One little photo can spark a thousand emotions…

Growing up a lonely only was super swell in my book.   My petite universe swirled around me.  No wonder sharing wasn’t in my vocabulary. (Can you say, “spoiled”?)

My Mother and Father married in 1952, but I wasn’t born until 1960.  After eight long years of waiting, who wouldn’t be fearful of a brand new baby girl?  I still believe they had no idea what to do with me.


(Note most of our pictures were either of Daddy and me or Mother and me as with the three of us, who else would take the picture?  Please don’t miss Daddy’s very svelte argyle socks.  This was 1960.  My sweet sister-in-law got all our boys rockin’ with svelte socks last Christmas.  Yeah, 2015.  Thank you, Nordstrom Rack.)

Mom and Dad perfected helicopter parenting, not wanting a scratch or a bruise to mar my little self.  The day I rode my Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon down our neighbor’s hill, crashing on the asphalt in our driveway, depositing some skin on the pavement, freaked us all out.  Odd, there was no flying in that wagon.

Once in school, I began inviting friends over.  Many of them were lonely onlies too.

God provided the best kind of friend directly across the street from us.  She was ultra cool because she came with the bonus of having two older brothers.  They were boy scouts and there was nothing they couldn’t do.  Each visit was a new lesson.

Her name is Meredith Myers.  She and I are only one year apart, so for several years, we’d ride our bikes together to Glendover Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky.  God graciously protected us because we never paid attention to cars near us as we talked non-stop all the way to and from school.

Bikes bicyclist girl. Girls wearing bicycle helmet with rucksac

(Note these little girls are wearing helmets.  Helmets weren’t invented back in our day.  Yes, we are old.)

Meredith’s parents and mine also became close friends and “those were the days” as they say.  Elementary School evolved into “Junior High” (now Middle School), on into High School.

Meredith and I went to different colleges, but we managed to visit each other, staying in touch.  We married three weeks apart and were in each other’s weddings.  She and her husband settled in Nashville while John and I settled in Louisville.


Meredith lost her parents first.  Both deaths seemed too early and too sudden.  Thankfully, we were able to trust in a Sovereign God.

Two favorite Scriptures  which help are:



My folks stayed in their home, still across the street from where the Myers lived, as long as they could. Multiple illnesses plus my Dad having a stroke landed them in an Assisted Living facility in Lexington.

Unfortunately that was a short term band-aid, causing us to move them to Louisville into a nearby nursing home.  Our three boys swear they’ve never moved so much furniture so many times. God bless their strong backs.

Daddy had a heart attack that ultimately took his life, followed by a seventeen-month progression of health deterioration in my Mother.  “Only the Lord” is how we answer the question of, “How did we survive those difficult years?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of our favorite “life-lines”: 

“So be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will never fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT)  Somehow that little word “panic” resonates. But look at the promise that follows…God will go ahead of us, never failing nor abandoning us.  Isn’t that the best?

Many of our friends are losing their parents too.  I find myself buying sympathy cards by the box.

Visitations and funerals are not at the top of my list of most desirable activities, but of course, who wouldn’t go for a friend?  The greater challenge of attending these services is offering the right words of condolence.  Not a gift of mine, rest assured.

I’m embarrassed to admit that often, the bereaved winds up comforting me because I’ve dissolved into a puddle of tears.  Thus, I’ve resorted to borrowing words of encouragement from a few of my favorite authors:  Max Lucado, Bob Russell and Kerry and Chris Shook.

The Shooks help with a good perspective when a death seems to happen too soon. They tell about a young couple in Owensboro, Kentucky.  The wife discovers she has terminal cancer and soon will be leaving her young children and husband behind.  (This is in their book, One Month to Live—30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.)


She asks her pastor, Jess Moody, about the below verse:

2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

She did the math, and “figured if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour…my husband may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven.  When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour?…I’ve missed you.’”

My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me.  When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today?  Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours.’”

Jess said, “Now that’s an eternal perspective.”

Max Lucado, in his book, When Christ Comes, quotes Bob Russell.  He tells about Bob’s father’s funeral.


Bob said the day of the funeral was a “cold, blustery, Pennsylvania day”…The Funeral Director told Bob the roads were too treacherous to take a procession to the burial.  He said he’d take the body to the grave.

Bob couldn’t bear to not be at the burial, “so he and his brother and their sons piled into a four-wheel drive vehicle and followed the hearse.”

Bob said, “We plowed thru’ ten inches of snow into the cemetery, got about fifty yards from my Dad’s grave, with the wind blowing about twenty-five miles per hour, and the six of us lugged that casket down to the grave site…”

He continued, “We watched the body lowered in the grave and we turned to leave.  I felt something was undone, so I said, ‘I’d like for us to have a prayer.’  The six of us huddled together and I prayed, ‘Lord, this is such a cold, lonely place.’

“And then I got too choked up to pray anymore.  I kept battling to get my composure, and finally I just whispered, ‘But I thank you, for we know to be absent from the body is to be safe in your warm arms.’” (2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV)

Max concludes with what I hold onto today:

“We don’t like to say good-bye to those whom we love…It is right for us to weep, there is no need for us to despair.  They had pain here.  They have no pain there.  They struggled here.  They have no struggles there.

“You and I might wonder why God took them home.  But they don’t.  They understand.  They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God.”


This is an older picture of my parents, but it’s how I like to remember them. It’s the one staring at me over the washer and dryer.  It’s the one that triggered the unexpected tears.

On days when those of us who’ve lost our parents are homesick for them, I pray these words of these great authors plus The Author of the Word of God bring us all comfort.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Guest Post from Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell, of “Dwelling Places”…When Will You Finally Slow Down? (Plus Q and A’s…)

Friends! This week we’re in for a real treat. We’ll be hearing from an author friend of mine, Lucinda Secrest McDowell (Cindy) who seems to have a “word” for us all, namely yours truly on a regular basis. I’ve written about a couple of her beautiful, inspirational books in previous posts:

One Word That’ll Make Your Day

When Was the Last Time You Took a Bath?

And Don’t Allow Distractions to Derail You

Cindy is a gifted writer.  She’s been mercifully gracious to me and our Tuesday Bible study group recently when we had the privilege of studying her book Refresh!


This week we get to hear straight from Cindy, gleaning inspirational words from her newest devotional, Dwelling Places.


Please join me in reading Cindy’s post we can all relate to as I rush out the door…:


When Will You Finally Slow Down?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

“Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell Excerpted from “Dwelling Places” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell (Abingdon Press)


Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net



Thank you, Cindy! Wonderful words of encouragement…


Finally, let’s ask her a couple of questions:

How did you come to write this book?

LSM: So…. how did I come to write a book called “Dwelling Places?”  Honestly, this one-word-a-day devotion (meant to both inspire and teach) came out of my own need to know. And to grow.

Every year I choose a “word from the Lord” and find myself marinating in what it means to my life on all levels — spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Last year the word was DWELL and as I explored the many facets of DWELL, I recognized my own desire to learn how to dwell in peace and serenity and joy and hope; rather than spend my time in exhaustion and hurry, chaos and confusion.

Turns out God’s Word is full of dwelling places – those sanctuaries of refuge and abiding. In my new book “Dwelling Places” I offer 130 of those words and unwrap their meaning through storytelling, biblical teaching and hundreds of quotes from hymns and godly people who are my own teachers.

There are actually four sections which can be read at any time, but they include 30 days for Advent and 40 days for Lent if you’re interested in trying out that special discipline during the church year. DWELL (Fall) SHINE (Advent) RENEW (Lent) GROW (Summer) OR just read any word, any page at any time.

I loved writing this book and felt each word and verse were truly given to me. I absolutely know the benedictions at the end came straight from God through my pen. I am humbled and grateful to be able to share these words. 


Why should people read Dwelling Places?

LSM: My observation is that people everywhere are hungering for refuge. A safe place. A true home where they can live authentically. Ask the hard questions, and receive all the grace and mercy needed after devastation. In my speaking and writing I long to help show that all throughout God’s Word the precious concept of “dwelling in His constant presence” is lifted up. In the Old Testament we are directed to sanctuary, refuge, and called to Be Still. In the New Testament we are encouraged that Christ wants to make His home in our hearts.

So I decided to write a devotional that lifted up these concepts – each day based on One Word in a key verse. My goal is that throughout the stories that are shared, the biblical and historical profiles mentioned, the hymns, poetry, and even children’s books will all work together to help teach the reader how to live the deeper “with God” life. But at the same time enjoy the process of knowing where to find hope, grace and mercy. In other words, these are words that touch a hurting world. Everything I do must have a practical aspect so I hope there is a takeaway each day on how to live the word you have just been reading about. Also, I felt compelled to offer a short benediction, as though God were now giving His blessing and charge on your going forth, now strengthened with His Word in your heart and mind.


Will you share some favorite quotes from Dwelling Places?

 “So I embraced both meanings of dwell: 1. To live 2. To focus. It soon became obvious that all too often I live amid hurry and obligation, dwelling in anxiety and surrounded by noise. And where was my default focus – circumstances, lists, self-preservation, tasks, things? No more.” Lucinda Secrest McDowell in “Dwelling Places” (from “Dwell” p. 2)

“We all carry soul wounds. Scars from childhood family skirmishes. Scratches from professional rejection. Scabs from physical trauma we never saw coming. Limps from having fallen one time too many. What are your souvenirs of suffering and what will you do with them?” Lucinda Secrest McDowell in “Dwelling Places” (from “Wounds” p. 144)




 ‘Til next time!

P.S.  Don’t forget about Book Club, next Monday night, September 26th, with author Kristy Cambron coming to discuss her book The Ringmaster’s Wife.  6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church, in Louisville, KY. Bring a friend and join us!

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Filed under Author Interviews, Book Reviews

You’re Invited to Meet and Hear Author Kristy Cambron, Monday, September 26th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church (PLUS FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!***)

Friends! You’re invited to Branches Book Club’s first gathering of the season. Bring your friends! We’ll be extra spoiled by having the opportunity to meet and hear from author Kristy Cambron. She’s driving in from Indiana.


We’ll be meeting at Middletown United Methodist Church, 11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Monday, September 26th.

Kristy will be talking about her newest book, The Ringmaster’s Wife. You still have plenty of time to read this compelling novel and bring questions you may have for her.


Jump onto her website and go to “books”. Click on The Ringmaster’s Wife and you’ll find a video clip of her research into the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. She takes you on a fabulous tour of the Ringlings’ Ca’d’Zan Mansion.

It’s just as elaborate as she describes in the book, complete with a breathtaking vista of the bay. Don’t miss the gorgeous wood in the dining room.


Kristy’s novel is set in the 1920’s. She transports us readers right into the Roaring Twenties when the circus was gaining momentum.

An unusually talented young woman from North Yorkshire, England, Lady Rosamund Easling, is discovered by a young man named Colin Keary. He works for the Ringlings. (Colin has an interesting story revealed in the book as well.)

Colin spies Rosamund standing atop a horse while the horse gallops thru’ a field. She remains standing with an uncanny ease. Colin instantly knows he must talk her into joining the circus. You’ll be astonished at the hurdles she jumps to get to the States.


Rosamund left a life of royalty, comfort, and a future marriage for the vagabond circus life. Her boldness will take your breath away.

I’m forever grateful for Kristy writing this novel. I confess I’ve never been much of a circus girl. Having our own three-ring circus at home (Three boys plus one wildly adventurous husband, come on!) seemed enough entertainment. Kristy and her husband are also blessed with three boys, so I’m hopeful she’ll share some of their stories on the 26th too.

When our boys were little, we took them a couple of times when the circus came to town. They preferred cotton candy to the clowns, but the elephants and tigers completely won their attention.


We never realized the intense orchestration behind the actual production of the circus. This is one of many eye-openers Kristy includes in her novel.

Kristy also gives us a sneak peek into circus performers’ lives, the significant effort it takes to tote a circus to town, juggling the vast variety of personalities, the challenge of bookings, ticket sales, and on and on.

We readers will also witness the destructive potential of star power. Kristy weaves a little plot within the plot that’ll shock your socks off. Jealousy rares its’ ugly head and you won’t believe her who-done-it.

Happy to report there’s also a love story. Who doesn’t love a love story? You’ll be cheering the characters along.

Finally, don’t miss the unique friendship that evolves between Mrs. Ringling herself and Rosamund. It’s sweet and sincere. Can you fathom having a mentor such as Mable Ringling?


Kristy dots her pages with God’s hand in some of her character’s faith, their prayer lives, and lessons in relying upon the Lord. Not every character has faith to cling to which is precisely what gets them into trouble. No spoiler alerts, tho’!

Read the book before September 26th and come ready to discuss it. Think of some questions you’d like to ask Kristy. If you don’t have time to read it, no worries. Please come and listen because you’ll want to read it later!

More good news: We’ll be having circus fare to eat! Caramel corn, hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn, spun sugar (sounds fancier than cotton candy) and other nutritious treats will be on the menu. If time permits, bring something you’d like to have at a circus to add to our smorgasbord.

Girl eating cotton candy

Between meeting the author and the fun food, what more motivation do you need? Mark you calendar now! Please join us Monday, September 26th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.! You won’t want to miss this!!! Don’t forget to invite your friends!

Let’s remember to ask Kristy to tell us about her next book, The Illusionist’s Apprentice coming out next year.


Don’t forget to add to your calendar Liz Curtis Higgs and Bill Higgs are BOTH coming to our October meeting, October 24th! We’ll be discussing Mixed Signals by Liz and she’ll be interviewing Bill about his new novel, Eden Hill.

Mixed Signals

Eden Hill

31 Verses to Write on your Heart

Plus Liz’ newest book, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart will have just released. (10/18) It will be available that night as well.

Hope to see you Monday, September 26th! Please call Nancy Tinnell at MUMC to RSVP: (502) 245-8839.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

***Please leave a comment which will enter you to win a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY of The Ringmaster’s Wife. After five days, we’ll draw a name from the comments. I’ll mail it to you in time before the meeting.

 ‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews